ENGLAND’S more than 10,000 village halls, many of which are located in Teignbridge, are being recognised for providing warm, welcoming, and inclusive spaces in a national campaign.

Village Halls Week 2023, currently ongoing,celebrates the many ways these volunteer-run, rural community buildings support local residents, groups and businesses, particularly during difficult times.

As the cost-of-living situation continues, rural communities have come to rely on the humble village hall as a place to keep warm, access basic services and socialise without the expense of travelling elsewhere.

The national campaign provides an opportunity for halls to showcase what they are doing for their community, and the opportunities they provide to people locally that would not otherwise exist.

Activities, which began on Monday, have so far included open days at local halls and a social media campaign that will include stories from users of community buildings.

Research conducted by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), who organise the annual campaign, found that in 60 per cent of countryside areas, community buildings are the only place for local people to socialise.

Aside from hosting a wide range of social and recreational activities for residents, they also host vital services such as post offices, doctors’ surgeries and convenience shops, whilst supporting an estimated 50,000 people whose livelihoods depend on use of these buildings.

Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Village Halls Manager, said: ‘If it wasn’t for village halls, many people in rural communities would find themselves isolated and cut off from basic amenities.

‘The past three years have been difficult for everyone.

‘But during this time, village halls have adapted and developed new ways to help residents, from the sewing of face masks during the first Covid lockdown, to Warm Hubs providing a haven for people struggling to pay their energy bills, and community fundraisers for Ukrainian refugees.

‘That’s why members of the ACRE Network will be joined by many other organisations next week in celebrating the way these volunteer-run buildings are the glue that binds rural communities together by offering warm, welcoming, and inclusive spaces.’

The charity recently began administering a £3 million grant fund on behalf of Defra, available to village halls who want to make improvements to their buildings.

Lord Benyon, Minister for Rural Affairs, said: ‘Village halls are an important part of rural communities and should be recognised for the vital support they offer.

‘They are instrumental in combating rural isolation and are a vital asset for residents and businesses.

‘The government is committed to supporting the long-term future of village halls, which is why we recently made new funding available to help restore and modernise these centres of community life.’